BMW once assured devotees that an SUV would never wear its high-performance M division badge.

Now there are two. We previewed the X6 M sports activity coupe last year, and now it’s the more conventional-looking 2010 X5 M’s turn.

Its direct-injected, twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8, shared with the X6 M, pumps out a potent 555 horsepower.

The exhaust manifolds and turbos are located in the vee of the engine, an efficient setup which makes for scenery-distorting throttle response.

The only transmission is a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, beefed up for M duty.

According to BMW, the two and a half-ton X5 M will hit 60 from a standstill in 4.5 seconds, and we can very easily believe it.

BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system spreads power to staggered-width 20” wheels, but the rears get the lion’s share, which means the X5 M is also fun in the twisties.

To distinguish it from standard X5, there’s an M badge in each fender port, and quad exhaust outlets out back. A menacing kinship to the X6 M is clear, right down to the glaring headlights and hungry intakes.

But, from the X5 M’s taller A-pillars rearward, the differences also become obvious. The X5 M maintains its practical two-box shape and split hatch, and can be fitted with roof rails.

That also means more headroom for rear-seat passengers.

In typical BMW good taste, the cabin is simple, luxurious, and easy on the eyes. Red and blue stitching and restrained M badging spice things up a bit, from the thick, well-contoured steering wheel to the tunnel-mounted shifter.

On sale now, the 2010 X5 M starts for just over $86,000, or about $3,500 less than the X6 M.


Specifications

  • twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8:
  • 555 horsepower:
  • Starting just over $86,000: